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Physics Orienting myself toward quantum computing or a related field

  1. Jul 8, 2017 #1
    I am well aware that QC-related graduate programs are competitive so I am preparing myself for a rejection. Not because I'm unconfident. But because everyone should have a backup plan just in case. I haven't applied yet because I'm about to take the GRE.

    I really do enjoy both quantum physics and coding. And I am willing to go into industry or academia. I have a physics bachelor's degree. I think it's important to be focused on a goal; I am focusing on QI. But if I really had to deviate slightly to a related field, my world would not be over. I would prefer to exhaust my options before I completely give up, though.

    Are there other options to pursue if I were to do more preparation and then reapply for a QI program?

    For example, would it be useful to pursue a master's in something else like computer science, software engineering, or electrical engineering to then reapply for a QI program?

    As far as I'm aware from a few boisterous physicists I've met at conferences, a master's degree in physics is "useless to the physics community" insofar as you "can't contribute much without a PhD". (Not my words. Feel free to disagree; just what I've heard.) So, if anything, I'd just flat-out pursue a physics PhD instead.

    Alternatively, if I don't go into QI, what are some other interesting fields that might combine ideas of physics and computer science?

    I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

    Reminder: I haven't even applied to QI programs yet. I'm just trying to be proactive.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 8, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 9, 2017 #2
    Good evening,

    For the quantum information, I would suggest to go into quantum photonics. It is clear that quantum computers will be working with photonics on chips and that language of the future computers is not yet defined. If I may allow myself to promote my favorite topic, I would suggest to have a look to polaritons, but also to theoretical computer science and mathematics. I reached the field of quantum effects in coupled electron-photon systems by studying laser and plasma physics also. So you have a lot of choices: theoretical physics, condensed matter theory, quantum optics, photonics, ... In which country are you?

    All the best,
  4. Jul 10, 2017 #3
    I am from the United States but I am also looking at graduates school in Canada. I'd even be open to Europe (though I only speak English fluently).
  5. Jul 11, 2017 #4
    Oh, so you may take into account the insane costs of education in USA and UK ($xx,xxx per year). In Europe, most of countries make pay something more reasonable, like xxx € per year.
    Depending on your marks and network, you can choose on the Shanghai ranking. Pragmatically: the higher the better.
  6. Jul 11, 2017 #5
    Well, undergraduate education in the US is expensive. Though I've cut down costs with scholarships and grants. But as far as I've heard for the US, graduate schools usually pay the grad student, not the other way around. I.e., grad schools typically provide a stipend that covers tuition and basic living costs in exchange for being a TA. At least for the sciences. If you can secure outside grant money from elsewhere, even better.

    The only issue with the Shanghai ranking is that it doesn't include fields as specific as Quantum Information. My goal school is past #200 for physics but #32 in computer science. I've heard over the internet that it's the top university for QC, but I haven't exactly found cold hard numbers which prove that.

    At any rate, all I read on the internet tells me that these QC/QI programs are extremely competitive and that there aren't many of them. So to some degree, I'm less concerned with getting into a specific school as I am to get into the specific program. Assuming the school is decent enough, of course.

    My GPA is good enough to get into graduate school, but probably not competitive enough to get into MIT, is what I'm saying. Add in the fact that my college did not offer research related to QC/QI and I'm behind the curve.
  7. Jul 11, 2017 #6
    If I were to get into a less prestigious master's program at my goal university (physics, in this case), would I have better chances getting into the more prestigious PhD program (QI, in this case)?

    Or should I not even be asking these questions right now? Haha.

    I'm just a cautious person so I am trying to create a backup plan, here.
  8. Jul 12, 2017 #7


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    Quantum information/computing spans a lot of different departments. Many people are in physics departments, but there are also people in departments like electrical engineering and computer science. I think the easiest thing to do in your case would be to apply to physics programs indictating quantum information as your research interest. There are some places which have centers for quantum information. Caltech has a quantum information center, UCSB has station q on campus, Maryland has the joint quantum institute among other places. In Canada the University of Waterloo (Perimeter Institute is affiliated with them) is very well known for quantum information
  9. Jul 17, 2017 #8


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    I don't think that is correct. It is true that the quantum photonics people have done well over the past few years; but scaling is still a major problem and it is not at all obvious if/when it can be solved; chip-scale photonics is simply very, very technologically challenging.
    Hence, photonics is certainly a contender but at the moment I believe you could say that it is a distant third after superconducting qubits (used by Google, D-Wave, IBM...) and ions traps.

    To the OP: What type of QC are you interested in? Algorithms? Or experimental work? If it is the latter you need to think about what type of physics you are interested in.
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